Dog lovers beware
For some reason, when I post accolades to the police and community in this column something bad happens. It started with me commenting on how much safer our roads had been before the tragedies of December and just last month I talked about how home burglaries had dropped because of some great police and community work.
You guessed it – since then we have seen an increase in this crime type, with a couple of crooks back in town after a stay in the big house. We know who they are and rest assured that if they wish to continue committing crime in our towns then they will be going back for another stay.
On this note, you may notice a police ‘‘booze bus’’ out and about in Tokoroa streets. If you see it parked up drop in for a cup of tea and a chat about your neighbourhood and how we can make it safer. It is all about crime prevention and no, we won’t breath-test you – not this time.
Last week I hosted Jaio Belo dos Reis, a police commander from Timor Leste who was visiting for a community policing project between the New Zealand police and the Policia Nationale Timor Leste. I am part of this programme and as a mentor for the commander I visit his country three times a year. While there is much we can teach them, there is also much for us to learn.
I took Commander Belo to Tokoroa, Putaruru and Mangakino, where he spoke with our staff and communities including a brief chat with our mayor. Of note is the good old-fashioned country hospitality he received at the Swanston Street Sushi shop. Well done to the young lady who served him, you did Tok proud.
Probably the most pleasing aspect of his visit was how amazed he was at seeing police and communities interact in New Zealand, something completely foreign to him, as police in Timor do not enjoy a trusted relationship.
In Timor they have a large number of small communities each directed by a Chefe de Suco, a locally elected mayor-type who looks after about 1500 to 3000 people in a problem-solving role.
If a couple have a domestic dispute he/she decides who is at fault and if the man is in the wrong he may be ordered to pay the wife’s family a pig. If the wife is in the wrong then the wife’s family pay the man a pig.
While this system provides them with a great service at a low level it lets them down when family violence or serious criminal behaviour is evident.
There is little or no connection to police, and victims feel unable to speak up, a stark reminder for us because it was not so long ago that we had significant under-reporting of family violence and physical and sexual abuse.
Seeing police community relationships in Timor reminds me of how important it is to have our communities trust in us and our actions. While there will always be times when the relationship is tested it will be trust and confidence that will get us through.
Trust and confidence can only be built by getting to know each other and to do this we need to talk in good times and to talk in bad times. Drop in to the booze bus for a chat or catch up with a police person you know. We don’t bite.
On a lighter, or darker side if you are a dog lover, the commander and his language assistant observed a very large dog on their travels and commented that it would feed many, many people in their country.
Be safe and drive safe, always.